The company, now in its second year, goes beyond the Fair Trade movement, which Rob Tuttle, Thrive’s vice president of coffee excellence, said just sets a value from which the profit for farmers cannot drop below.
“What we do is we actually allow the farmer to participate in the entire value chain. They get a certain percentage of whatever we sell the coffee for, period,” Tuttle said. “When we sell a pound of roasted coffee, the farmer actually gets half of what we sell it for.”
More than 600 farmers from Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica are on the Thrive team, he said. In 2012, their farmers sourced 328,000 pounds of coffee, which were sold to retailers, specialty cafes, roasters and coffee lovers through Thrive’s online store.
Being conscious about coffee farmers’ incomes is important to Thrive’s management team.
“Without them being able to make a sustainable income, they will continue leaving [the industry] at double-digit rates, and then we will have a bigger problem with sourcing coffee overall,” Tuttle said. “Farmers have been paid so little over the past decades.”
As the company moves forward, he said he would like to get more coffee roasters on board with the business and build on the interconnectivity between farmers and roasters.
“There’s a café up in New York that has done Skype conference calls right in the middle of the café with our farmers,” Tuttle said. “It totally brings the level of engagement of the customer to a whole new level.”
As part of his job, Tuttle visits farmers in their home countries. He walks through the fields and observes the process of how the coffee beans are picked, milled, dried and stored before being exported.
Once the product makes its way to Roswell, he gets a sample. He roasts the coffee and brews a batch, rating the product on a score between zero and 100, judging on 10 different criteria including flavor, fragrance/aroma and aftertaste.
Tuttle has been judging coffee on a professional level for about 10 years and is a judge for the World Barista Championship.
Most of the coffee receives scores between 85 and 91, he said. Anything with a score of 80 or below gets rejected as to ensure a top-quality product.
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